World Cup bid cost cer­tainty sought

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - ROB SHAW rshaw@post­media.com twit­ter.com/rob­shaw_­van­sun

VIC­TO­RIA B.C. Premier John Hor­gan says he is not will­ing to write a “blank cheque” to have Van­cou­ver host soc­cer matches for the FIFA World Cup in 2026, which may threaten the city ’s in­volve­ment in a bid pack­age that is due this week.

“We have been grap­pling with the pro­po­nents who want us to sign a blank cheque, a con­di­tional agree­ment that can be changed by FIFA but not by us,” Hor­gan said Tues­day. “I’d love to see soc­cer games in B.C. Place. I’ve said quite clearly to the pro­po­nents, ‘Bring it on. Let’s bring soc­cer to Van­cou­ver in 2026.’ But let’s also en­sure the costs to tax­pay­ers are not out of con­trol.”

A uni­fied bid fea­tur­ing Canada, the United States and Mex­ico is seek­ing to host the 2026 tour­na­ment. Van­cou­ver, as one of the po­ten­tial host cities, could see a max­i­mum of five games. The eco­nomic ben­e­fit of those games could range from $90 mil­lion to $480 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port to the City of Van­cou­ver coun­cil, which voted to en­dorse and sup­port the bid pro­posal.

The prov­ince would be ex­pected to play a role in help­ing with the provin­cially owned B.C. Place Sta­dium, in­clud­ing any mod­i­fi­ca­tions re­quired to the play­ing sur­face, park­ing, se­cu­rity and the cost of us­ing the fa­cil­ity. This would be sim­i­lar to the other Cana­dian cities in­volved in the bid, since all the sta­di­ums are pub­licly owned.

The bid dead­line is Fri­day. Hor­gan said the prov­ince sub­mit­ted an of­fer last week, but it wasn’t ac­cepted by the bid com­mit­tee. Mean­while, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment threw its sup­port, and $5 mil­lion in fund­ing, be­hind the pro­posal on Tues­day.

“The fed­eral gov­ern­ment an­nounced to­day they sup­port the bid in prin­ci­ple, but they didn’t say any­thing about the cost of se­cu­rity, they didn’t say any­thing about the in­dem­ni­ties that the prov­ince has to put in place, un­like other cities in Canada be­cause we own the sta­dium,” said Hor­gan.

“I have a higher obli­ga­tion than just be­ing a soc­cer fan. I have a higher obli­ga­tion than just want­ing to see world-class soc­cer in Van­cou­ver. I have to make sure tax­pay­ers aren’t on the hook for un­known costs at the whim of FIFA.

“I’m just not pre­pared to sign off on that, nor is the min­is­ter of fi­nance. We’re go­ing to con­tinue to work with the pro­po­nent through­out the week, but I think they have to be re­spon­si­ble as well and un­der­stand that as much as we’d love to see soc­cer com­ing to Van­cou­ver, world-class, not at any cost.”

The pro­vin­cial Lib­er­als ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of bail­ing on the bid af­ter years of work.

“In 2015, the eco­nomic ben­e­fit, to B.C. alone, of host­ing the FIFA Women’s World Cup was es­ti­mated to be about $118 mil­lion, all from an ini­tial in­vest­ment of $2 mil­lion,” said Lib­eral critic Jas Jo­hal dur­ing the leg­is­la­ture’s ques­tion pe­riod Tues­day. “How­ever, the re­ports are that the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has pulled out of the bid for the men’s 2026 FIFA World Cup. In fact, we have learned that the bid dead­line was last night. Again, I ask the min­is­ter: Can she con­firm if the prov­ince sup­ports the bid, yes or no?”

In a state­ment, a spokesper­son for the tourism min­istry said: “The gov­ern­ment sup­ports in prin­ci­ple the Men’s World Cup FIFA event in Van­cou­ver.”

The city, pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, fed­eral gov­ern­ment and air­port au­thor­ity are part of a multi-party work­ing group, with sim­i­lar groups set up in Ed­mon­ton, Mon­treal and Toronto.

If the bid is suc­cess­ful, Van­cou­ver would be no­ti­fied of its host city sta­tus in 2021. Then, the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments would be ex­pected to help col­lab­o­rate on costs. It is un­clear if B.C.’s hes­i­ta­tion, or out­right aban­don­ment, of the deal will throw the Cana­dian bid into jeop­ardy.

Vic­tor Mon­tagliani, the Van­cou­ver-based pres­i­dent of CON­CA­CAF, the re­gional gov­ern­ing body for soc­cer, and who is help­ing to pre­pare Canada’s bid for the World Cup, de­clined to com­ment: “It’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate for me to com­ment as I’m a vice-pres­i­dent of FIFA.”

A spokesper­son with the fed­eral Min­istry of Sport and Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties redi­rected ques­tions about the im­pact on the bid back to the B.C. gov­ern­ment.

In a state­ment, City of Van­cou­ver spokesper­son El­lie Lam­bert called the bid “a once-in-a life­time op­por­tu­nity to be part of the largest sport­ing event in the world, and re­search has shown that if Van­cou­ver was an of­fi­cial host city we could ex­pe­ri­ence up to $490 mil­lion in cost ben­e­fits.”

“We con­tinue to work with our bid part­ners, in­clud­ing the prov­ince, and look for­ward to the United Bid Com­mit­tee’s an­nounce­ment later this week re­gard­ing the host cities that they will be in­clud­ing in the bid.”

Van­cou­ver White­caps pres­i­dent Bob Le­nar­duzzi, who played on Canada’s only World Cup team to date in 1986, said Van­cou­ver host­ing games was a no-brainer.

“We hosted the Olympics in 2010, which was a huge suc­cess. We hosted the 2015 Women’s World Cup,” he said. “There’s no ques­tion we have the abil­ity to be a part of the Cana­dian cities. We just want to get right be­hind the bid and do any­thing we can do to in­sure Bri­tish Columbia is one of the host cities.

“It’s a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity, and it’s prob­a­bly be­yond that. Who knows if there’s ever an­other op­por­tu­nity to host a men’s World Cup?”


Flags are car­ried onto the field be­fore a FIFA World Cup qual­i­fy­ing match in Van­cou­ver in 2016. The city hopes to host games in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.


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